Overcooking California’s election process

That Uncle Leo from “Seinfeld” once accused a cook at Monk’s of anti-Semitism because he overcooked a hamburger. Imagine how he would characterize California’s new election system, which by chance or conspiracy has caused Jewish Angelenos unspeakable horrors.

…With apologies to the late, great actor Len Lesser who portrayed Uncle Leo and lived near Los Angeles.

Poor Jewish Angelenos.

California’s new “top-two” primary must be an anti-Semitic plot. Uncle Leo of “Seinfeld” would conclude nothing less, especially since an Austrian-born governor signed off on it. Recall that Uncle Leo once accused a cook of anti-Semitism for overcooking a hamburger.
The state’s first “top-two” primary should be its last. It produced two general election contests that must be torture for every voter who lives in the newly-drawn 30th and 33rd congressional districts – where the vast majority of Jewish Angelenos live. Many a righteous gentile is suffering along with them.

Two veteran Jewish Democratic representatives – Howard Berman and Brad Sherman – are fighting (now, almost literally) for much of the San Fermando Valley, the 30th, because their districts are being merged. Democrat Henry Waxman, by all accounts a highly respected representative, faces a Republican-turned-independent who will not give straight answers on domestic issues. Both Waxman and his rival, Bill Bloomfield, are Jewish.

More after the jump.
I swiftly came to envy Jewish Angelenos during a much-too-brief visit to L.A. last December. Loved the beaches, appreciated the courtesy of most Angelenos and enjoyed the vitality.

Now a plague has fallen over the landscape that is almost as disastrous as a….okay, so it is not quite so horrid as a 7.5-scale earthquake.

Both the Waxman and Berman-Sherman elections exemplify why the “top-two” primary was, is and will be a bad idea.
Had the designers of this plan surveyed past elections, they would have learned that fewer voters turn out in primaries than general elections. Put another way: Who doesn’t know that primary turnout is much lower than general election turnout? That means fewer people determine the line-up.

The intention of the new process is laudatory. The “top-two” primary is intended to dilute partisan influence. The system allows candidates of all stripes – Democrat, Republican, third party or independent – to run in a single open primary in congressional elections and other contests. The two candidates with the greatest number of votes will face off in the general election.

It opens the door for independent candidates, but the results of the first primary last June 5 were underwhelming. Four independents broke through, but three eked out low numbers allowing them to face incumbents who each won large majorities (two Democrats and a Republican).

The exception is Henry Waxman. He has won every election since 1975 with a minimum of 60 percent of the vote, yet he emerged from the primary with 45 percent. He faces an independent who calls Congress “hyper-partisan.”
Whether Waxman is “hyper-partisan” is open to question, but he is no doubt accomplished. He is the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, passed major anti-pollution legislation and helped initiate early versions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Health-care reform would hardly be a personal priority for his constituents in Malibu, Beverly Hills and other ultra-wealthy communities. Redistricting removed 45 percent of his constituents, mostly on L.A.’s west side, and added expensive coastal real estate south of Los Angeles International Airport, a.k.a. LAX.

I watched Waxman chair a committee meeting in 2008 on complicated financial matters, yet after awhile it was clear that the Bush administration was vulnerable to criminal prosecution. It takes an intelligent, diligent worker bee to accomplish that much.

Bloomfield is running as an independent who previously contributed $285,000 to Republicans. His stated reason for running: “You’ve got people in Congress who basically think that their job is to politick 24/7. The hyper-partisanship is causing the gridlock.”

How does Waxman contribute to that concern? In a Jewish Journal article, Bloomfield makes no case and Waxman’s record, in fact, suggests otherwise.

The Journal piece describes Bloomfield as having “avoided picking sides on a number of issues that have divided Congress” and lamented passage of health-reform without support from any Republicans, but refused to say how he would have voted.

We need independents because Congress and other political offices need average citizens with lots of fresh ideas who are not held back by partisan influence. One would think Bloomfield is full of new attitudes and reflects the perspective of people who lack a political home.

Jews in the Valley have been compelled to endure an election contest between Berman and Sherman not once but twice. They were the main players during the primary and now they are engaged in what amounts to a rematch.
As Democrats with similar liberal voting records, these guys have as much in common politically as any pair of contestants. Incredibly, $11 million has been spent on this election, which The Los Angeles Times described as one of the nation’s most expensive.

It almost turned into a literal slugfest earlier during a debate this month when Sherman disputed Berman’s lead sponsorship of the Dream Act, an immigration reform bill, and Berman called his rival “delusional.” Berman appeared to approach Sherman, who yelled, “Don’t you dare stand up here in the west San Fernando Valley and get in my face! Get away from me!”

As the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported, Sherman put his arm around Berman and said, “You want to get into this? You want to put your face in mine?”

Sherman is 57 and Bermain is 71. This incident occurred in Woodland Hills, which The Jewish Journal tagged as the most populous Jewish community in Los Angeles. A sheriff separated them.

The general-election line-up was determined by a minority of voters because of low turnout during primaries. General election voters could respond to their choice with anger and confusion.

It is too late to relieve the current suffering of our California brethren, but a repeat can be avoided. Revert to closed primaries and establish a ranked preference process in the general election known as Instant Runoff Voting.
On its Web site, the Center for Voting and Democracy describes how Instant Runoff Voting would work: “IRV allows voters to rank candidates in order of preference. Voters have the option to rank as many or as few candidates as they wish, but can vote without fear that ranking less favored candidates will harm the chances of their more preferred candidates.

“First choices are then tabulated, and if a candidate receives a majority of first choices, he or she is elected. If nobody has a clear majority of votes on the first count, a series of runoffs are simulated, using each voter’s preferences indicated on the ballot. The weakest candidates are successively eliminated and their voters’ ballots are redistributed to next choices until a candidate earns a majority of votes.”

Time for Sacramento to cease overcooking elections. Let my people (and all righteous gentiles) vote…in an election process that makes sense.

A Senate at risk


111th Senate

Part 5 of American Vision by Bruce Ticker

“Enzi has already gotten detailed responses to the questions he raised. We know exactly how the 9/11 health clinics have spent their money, and so does Enzi.”
– Manhattan U.S. Reps. Carolyn Maloney and Jerrold Nadler

Whew! The American people were spared a U.S. Senate that might take command of its legislative agenda.

We do not want to jeopardize the Democratic Senate seats in Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota and other conservative states.

More after the jump.
Under the headline Senate Democrats’ minimalist agenda, The Washington Post reported that the Democratic majority has intentionally restrained itself to save seats in states like these.

The May 21, 2011, Post account states: “Democrats have decided to try to shield those lawmakers from the usual weeks-long debates and instead await for compromises to be reached behind closed doors. Reid’s approach is a bet that doing nothing looks better for them, so long as their arguments resonate with voters in 2012.”

Welcome to governance in the Senate half of the 112th Congress. Any wonder we have been stuck with an immovable Senate? Doing their jobs might cause some Democrats to lose their jobs in the November 2012 election. The Democratic leadership worried that they might lose their 51-47 majority if they overplayed their hand; two senators then were independents who caucus with the Democrats.

What, then, is the point of having a Senate?

Senate gridlock is rooted in the Senate’s composition that requires equal representation for all states, while leaving the House of Representatives with proportionate representation. Senate Democrats  represent all five states that opposed proportionate representation during the Constitutional Convention in 1787. Rhode Island, which did not participate in the convention, is also represented by Democrats in the Senate.

Most low-population states are conservative or conservative-leaning. They are represented by Republicans in the Senate or alternate between the two parties. Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota was defeated for re-election in 2004. If he represented New Jersey or New York, he almost certainly would be serving in the Senate today.

Daschle’s fellow Democrats do not want others like him defeated, so they adjusted their agenda to protect their Senate seats in swing states. Three of those states, where two incumbents were retiring and a third was up for re-election, are home to 3.5 million people – Nebraska, 1.7 million; Montana, 975,00; and North Dakota, 646,000.

So, 1 percent of the nation’s citizenry – out of 308 million Americans – can propel the Senate leadership to ignore or minimize the needs and concerns of tens of millions of Americans. Democrats in the 112th Senate represented 190 million Americans after the 2010 election and 204 million in the 2008 election before Scott Brown, a Republican, was elected on Jan. 19, 2010, to fill a Massachusetts Senate seat left vacant by the death of Sen. Edward Kennedy.

Under these overall population estimates, each senator is counted as representing half their state’s population. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter’s switch to the Democratic Party is not counted here because he was elected as a Republican.

The four Democratic senators from New York and California collectively represent one-sixth of America’s population, 36.9 million in California and 19.5 million in New York.

That leaves 56.4 million Americans, and 135 million from other moderate or liberal states, in the lurch.

If the Senate represented the populace on a more proportionate basis, then far more attention would likely be paid to issues raised by the senators from high-population states such as New York and California.


Our present form of government was launched in a building at Wall and Nassau streets in lower Manhattan that was demolished two decades later. George Washington was inaugurated on the balcony on April 30, 1789. Eight blocks northeast, 212 years and four months later, two hijacked airplanes slammed into the World Trade Center towers.

It was this very form of government that threatened funding of two programs for New York City resulting from the 9-11 tragedy. One issue prompted bickering between a Manhattan congresswoman and a senator who represents fewer people than the number who live in her district. Manhattan alone comprises triple the population of the state that sent Mike Enzi to the Senate. For those who are confused by New York’s geographic composition, Manhattan is one of five boroughs that comprise NYC, population 8 million plus.

Manhattan’s population is 1,600,000 and Rep. Carolyn Maloney represents 700,000 people. The population of Enzi’s state, Wyoming, is 544,000.

In December 2010, Enzi opposed the Zadroga bill to compensate 9/11 workers sickened during the clean-up of the World Trade Center site. He was even accused of quarterbacking a campaign against the bill with a document that Carolyn Maloney called “a pack of lies.”

The New York Daily News attributed to unidentified sources the claim that Enzi, ranking Republican on the Senate Health Committee, was behind the opposition to the Zadroga bill, which would spend $7.4 billion over 10 years to provide health care and pay victims.

The revenue would be raised from closing tax revenues on foreign corporations. Because Republicans were against employing this source for revenues, New York Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, both Democrats, suggested other funding alternatives.

The News reported that the Republican document ignores their offers and labels the foreign tax provision a job-killer, and blatantly fabricates the claim that 95 percent of the workers were provided for in a recent $625 million legal settlement.

Only 10,000 people who sued, not the 30,000 who received some form of treatment, are covered by the settlement, the newspaper article clarified.

Calling these claims “a pack of lies,” Maloney said, “If these were legitimate concerns, why are Senate Republican leaders only raising them now, at the last minute, instead of years ago?”

Enzi would not respond to these accusations, but a week later he penned an op-ed piece in the News where he claimed that health-care providers that received federal grants for 9/11 health programs “have failed to tell Congress where that money has gone.”

In a follow-up letter to the News, Maloney and Jerrold Nadler (Ground Zero is located in his congressional district) wrote that “Enzi has already gotten detailed responses to the questions he raised. We know exactly how the 9/11 health clinics have spent their money, and so does Enzi.”


Obama signs Zadroga Act

In a Dec. 3 editorial, the Daily News employed phrases such as “distort the truth” and “torture decency” to describe Republican tactics. “They should stand at the graves of all those whose lungs were fatally destroyed, starting with NYPD Detective James Zadroga, who labored 450 hours at Ground Zero, and repeat the libel.” The bill was named after Detective Zadroga.

Next excerpt – Two senators, a high road and a low road

Voter Suppression Efforts


— by John Oliver Mason

There are efforts by Republican state governors in to keep unfavorable voters from voting. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker signed a voter ID bill prohibiting people who don’t have state ID cards or driver’s licenses from voting — and very conveniently closed ten inner-city Department of Motor Vehicles offices where people could get their IDs while adding extended hours in the suburbs.

While the law allows Voter ID’s to be obtained free of charge (in order to avoid being construed as an illegal poll tax), Gov. Walkers has told DMV workers to not inform customers of their rights. One DMV worker, Chris Larsen, has already been fired for encouraging people to get their free ID’s.

This is a deliberate attempt to prevent African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, college students, and seniors from voting, or making it inconvenient to apply for a form of ID. Similar laws have been introduced in Ohio, Kansas, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, New Hampshire, Colorado, Montana, and Texas; there has also been cases of “voter caging,” where voting officials challenge a voter’s qualification to vote, thus intimidating the potential voter.

More after the jump.
All this has been done in the name of “voter integrity” and “fair elections;” this, from the party of 2000, the party of voter fraud in Florida, of voters who would have voted against George W. Bush purged from the rolls, where voters were intimidated by police, where the votes of the Supreme Court mattered-voter integrity, indeed! The idea is to prevent low-income, poor and working people-the same people-from voting and seeking their empowerment, thus skewing the state in favor of the wealthy and corporations.

The cat popped out of the bag when conservative writer Matthew Vadum wrote,

Why are left-wing activist groups so keen on registering the poor to vote?… Because they know the poor can be counted on to vote themselves more benefits by electing redistributionist politicians. Welfare recipients are particularly open to demagoguery and bribery.

And here’s the kicker:

Registering them to vote is like handing out burglary tools to criminals… It is profoundly antisocial and un-American to empower the nonproductive segments of the population to destroy the country — which is precisely why Barack Obama zealously supports registering welfare recipients to vote. … Encouraging those who burden society to participate in elections isn’t about helping the poor. It’s about helping the poor to help themselves to others’ money.

So wealthy people and corporations, that allowed this economic catastrophe to occur due to their ignorance and greed,  that get trillions of dollars of federal money because they’re “too big to fail”, are productive, while working and low-income people, who work for money and spend it at local stores, thus boosting the economy, and leeches? Wonderful logic! And it’s worded so that the villain is “some one else, not you nice people”.

In the seventies, the New Right movement, through the direct-mail guru Richard Viguerie, concocted the line of “producers,” working people and corporations, as opposed to “non-producers,” government, universities, welfare recipients, etc., to give a “populist” look to the movement; fascist movements in Europe also tried to look “revolutionary,” to appeal to the masses. Now the “populist” facade has fallen off the plutocratic edifice that is contemporary conservativism. If the conservatives are such populists, why are they trying to keep people from voting?